Actress and LGBT advocate Ellen Page has joined the chorus of voices rising up to end the culture of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
Last week, six women accused Hollywood director and producer Brett Ratner of sexual harassment, accusations he denies. On Friday, Page joined them by writing a lengthy post on Facebook in which she accused him of “homophobic and abusive behaviour."
Thirty-year-old Page came out as a lesbian in a powerful 2014 speech, but says Ratner outed her at a work function when she was just 18. During a ‘meet and greet’ with cast and crew before filming XMen: The Last Stand, “He looked at a woman standing next to me, ten years my senior, pointed to me and said: “You should fuck her to make her realize she’s gay.”"
“I was a young adult who had not yet come out to myself. I knew I was gay, but did not know, so to speak. I felt violated when this happened. I looked down at my feet, didn’t say a word and watched as no one else did either. This man, who had cast me in the film, started our months of filming at a work event with this horrific, unchallenged plea. He “outed” me with no regard for my well-being, an act we all recognize as homophobic.”
Ratner’s behavior has had a major impact on Page, who wrote that “This public, aggressive outing left me with long standing feelings of shame, one of the most destructive results of homophobia. Making someone feel ashamed of who they are is a cruel manipulation, designed to oppress and repress.”
“I was robbed of more than autonomy over my ability to define myself. Ratner’s comment replayed in my mind many times over the years as I encountered homophobia and coped with feelings of reluctance and uncertainty about the industry and my future in it.” Actress Anna Paquin confirmed Page’s allegation, tweeting “I was there when that comment was made. I stand with you.”
Page also accused Ratner of routinely sexually harassing and humiliating other women at work. “I proceeded to watch him on set say degrading things to women. I remember a woman walking by the monitor as he made a comment about her “flappy pussy."
Instead of Ratner being punished or fired for the “blatantly homophobic and abusive behavior we all witnessed,” Page says she was the one punished by the producers for her attitude towards her boss.
“He was pressuring me, in front of many people, to don a t-shirt with “Team Ratner” on it. I said no and he insisted. I responded, “I am not on your team.” Later in the day, producers of the film came to my trailer to say that I “couldn’t talk like that to him.” I was being reprimanded…. I was an actor that no one knew. I was eighteen and had no tools to know how to handle the situation.” Page has been working as a professional actor since the age of ten and in her post she detailed the sexual harassment she encountered in just one year of work. “When I was sixteen a director took me to dinner (a professional obligation and a very common one). He fondled my leg under the table and said, “You have to make the move, I can’t.” I did not make the move and I was fortunate to get away from that situation."
“An adult authority figure for whom I worked intended to exploit me, physically. I was sexually assaulted by a grip months later. I was asked by a director to sleep with a man in his late twenties and to tell them about it. I did not.” As a famous actress with a degree of power and status in her industry, Page says she “can now assert myself and use my voice to fight back against the insidious queer and transphobic attitude in Hollywood and beyond. Hopefully having the position I have, I can help people who may be struggling to be accepted and allowed to be who they are –to thrive.”
Page acknowledged her privilege as a “cis, white lesbian,” with a platform to share her story and the “wealth and insurance to receive mental health care.” She urged readers to remember that “the epidemic of violence against women in our society disproportionately affects low income women, particularly women of color, trans and queer women and indigenous women."
Page acknowledged the “women of color, trans and queer and indigenous women” who have always led the fight for civil rights, writing that “White supremacy continues to silence people of color, while I have the rights I have because of these leaders. They are who we should be listening to and learning from.” Page asked the powerful question, “How many men in the media – titans of industry - need to be exposed for us to understand the gravity of the situation and to demand the fundamental safety and respect that is our right?”
She finished her post by imploring readers not to allow victim blaming to be normalized. “Don’t compare wrongs or criminal acts by their degrees of severity. Don’t allow yourselves to be numb to the voices of victims coming forward. Don’t stop demanding our civil rights. I am grateful to anyone and everyone who speaks out against abuse and trauma they have suffered. You are breaking the silence. You are revolution.”